****Note: Contains Spoilers****
Well, I’d been waiting for this book to come out for a long long time! (By the way, my wife told me I should not do that with books. “She can write the book when she wants to write it!” she said, when I told her it had been over ten years since the release of Tartt’s last novel. She has a point. Still, I wish Donna Tartt would write more books! She has said that she only has five or six books in her, and so far her books have come out about once a decade. The Goldfinch is her third, and it was worth waiting for!
The story of a thirteen-year-old boy, Theo, a Manhattan resident who loses his mother in an explosion plotted by terrorists when the two of them are touring the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York City, is on one level a rumination on fate and free will. Theo and his mother are separated at the time of the attack, and when Theo awakes in the rubble-strewn aftermath of the attack he meets a man near death who, before dying, hands him one of the most valuable paintings in the world, urging him to take it out of the museum, which Theo does. What ensues is a spiraling account of the next 15 years or so of Theo’s life: how Child Protective Services locates his estranged father and has Theo move to Las Vegas to live with him and his girlfriend; how he meets Boris, one of the most interesting characters in literature–a Russian-cum-Australian ruffian–and the two become fast friends, smoking pot, sniffing glue, and drinking copious quantities of beer and vodka; how he moves back to Manhattan at 16 and falls in love with Pippa, the niece of the man who gave Theo the painting; and how Theo and Boris get involved with a ring of criminals who deal with paintings such as Theo’s on the black market.
Tartt is of the Jay McInerney, Bret Easton Ellis school of literature; that is to say, her central characters are young, smart, well read (there is a plethora of literary references throughout The Goldfinch, delightfully) and socially savvy, and the ones in The Goldfinch and her first novel, The Secret History, also indulge in a lot of drinking–and, in The Goldfinch, drug use. Speaking of literary references, Theo’s feelings for Pippa echo Pip’s utterly determined love for Estella in Dickens’s Great Expectations and make for some of the book’s best material.
Regarding the drinking to get drunk and the drug use in the book: reading about characters who use drugs and drink huge amounts of alcohol is one thing, but if you are a young person who is considering getting drunk or using drugs, DON’T DO IT! The Bible says we should not drink to excess. If you are reading this and you do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ, please feel free to contact me, or contact a pastor. I would be happy to talk with you about establishing a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Once you are saved you will experience God’s joy and everlasting life, and you will not go to hell.
All in all The Goldfinch is a classic; I think Tartt is one of the best storytellers living today, and one of the authors of today who people will still be reading hundreds of years from now.
Rating (out of five stars): 5